It is about time for a #DigitalSingleMarket in #Europe

Europe is finally waking up and realizing that in order for the digital market to flourish, barriers need to be demolished. If European Union was created for the free circulation of men and goods, one cannot understand why it is not so in the digital space.

The plan to create a Digital Single Market within the 28 EU countries has been unveiled, with the goal of “bringing down barriers to unlock online opportunities”.

The three policy areas that have been identified by the Commission are:

  1. better online access to digital goods and services;
  2. an environment where digital networks and services can prosper;
  3. digital as a driver for growth.

The proposals, which will be on the agenda of the European Council meeting on June 25-26, have already attracted criticism: Robert Atkinson (@robatkinsonitif), President of Washington-based think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, says Europe would create an isolated market at the expense of the global digital economy, whereas Reed Hastings (@reedhastings), CEO of Netflix, says they are already solving the problem of making the content accessible worldwide at the same time commercially (source: The Hollywood Reporter).

However, the main point here is in fact creating an open and more fertile market that would also benefit the global digital economy, enhancing the circulation of content and therefore empowering the internal market for digital goods, including entertainment, and therefore giving consumers the possibility to choose from more than one content provider. This is what “open market” means. Creative Europe (formerly known as Media Programme) the programme for “supporting Europe’s cultural and creative sectors”, is already working in this direction since 1991, with a budget of €1.46 billion for the period 2014-2020.

Others, such as Randy Greenberg (@RandyGreenberg), Managing Director, Entertainment Content & Investment Strategy at The Greenberg Group and Instructor of Business of Entertainment at UCLA, as well as former SVP International Theatrical Marketing and Distribution at Universal Pictures, have argued that the immediate effect would be the end of the licensing territory by territory and a substantial drop in audiovisual content sales price because a handful of big buyers would emerge to dominate the Old Continent market and drive the smaller ones out of business, which will in turn cause content pricing to drop and ultimately overall revenue for the film and television industries to fall, not only in the digital market, but also in the traditional media and the theatrical distribution as a consequence.

True, it can be reasonably argued that the existence of more powerful buyers could ultimately drive content prices down for the Studios because of a diminished (or, better balanced) contractual power. However it could as well mean the opportunity for European content producers and distributors (as well as for digital startups) to benefit from a stronger internal market and flourish, starting from the digital space. Antitrust law enforcement will hopefully ensure that such power does not grow beyond control jeopardizing consumers.

digital-europe

In addition, as explained by Andrus Ansip (@Ansip_EU), the European Commission’s vice president in charge of the digital single market, a borderless Europe would not mean an end to territorial licensing – selling the rights to a film in various territories on an exclusive basis — or windowing, the system whereby a movie is released in stages on different platforms, from cinemas, to VOD to television. “We do not want to change the system or principle of territoriality,” Ansip said. “We are in favor of the principle of territoriality, but I am not accepting absolute territorial exclusivity.” Furthermore, the planned measures would be nurturing cultural diversity – while opening new opportunities for creators and the content industry. At the end of the day, Europeans will still be very different within each member state, and therefore they will keep liking different kind of content from local producers and distributors.

According to the European Commission, tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a single one of more than 500 million potential customers could contribute €415 billion per year to the European economy and create 3.8 million jobs.

All in all, it is reasonable to claim that such measures would enhance the circulation and monetization of digital content, should help European digital businesses to grow, balance the power of the Studios as well as of digital e-commerce giants such as Amazon and eBay that by the way already operate cross-borders enjoying the benefits of tax havens such as Ireland and Luxembourg. Finally, increasing the accessibility by eliminating geo-blocking and harmonizing copyright laws wold also have the incredibly positive effect of helping to fight piracy.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, sleeper film for this Summer

Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior who is trying to blend in anonymously, avoids deeper relationships as a survival strategy for navigating the social minefield that is teenage life. He even describes his constant companion Earl (RJ Cyler), with whom he makes short film parodies of classic movies, as more of a ‘co-worker’ than a best friend. But when Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) insists he spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) – a girl in his class who has just been diagnosed with cancer – he slowly discovers how worthwhile the true bonds of friendship can be.

Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is an upcoming American comedy-drama film, rated PG-13, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Glee, American Horror Story) and written by Jesse Andrews, based on Andrews’ 2012 debut novel of the same name, which sold more than 7 million copies. It stars Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke (Ouija) and Jon Bernthal (Fury, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Walking Dead) and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation (http://variety.com/2015/film/festivals/sundance-film-review-me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-1201414455/). The production budget was about $5.6 million.

It won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama at the festival. The film is scheduled to be released on June 12 by Fox Searchlight, which acquired the rights from Indian Paintbrush for about $8 million plus profit participation  winning the competition of many bidders including Focus Features, CBS Films, Lionsgate, A24, Miramax and TWC (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sundance-why-me-earl-dying-767545) and following a lot of media hype on the actual price tag (http://deadline.com/2015/01/me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-sundance-record-bidding-1201358903/).

me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-film

Fox Searchlight, one of the best for taking care of this kind of films (see also Little Miss Sunshine) will follow the path traced by 20th Century Fox last year with the phenomenon The Fault In Our Stars, released on June 6, grossing $124 million domestically and $182 million internationally. The basic strategy is to counterprogram a sci-fi big-budget blockbuster: it was Edge of Tomorrow last year, it will be Jurassic World this year, leveraging on amazing reviews and positive word-of-mouth on social media (the film has currently 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, 8.3/10 on IMDb, 92/100 Metascore). It will start with a limited release but it is going to expand while consensus will grow and moviegoers will notice the quality of this little gem, which will hit the Summer market like a rain of sunshine after a rainstorm and gross at least $50 million domestically.